Council considers alternatives to chip seal

The town council continues to consider methods for repairing roads. Cracks in the pavement were the biggest concert in 2016 during the chip seal discussion, as seen above in a tested option that wasn’t selected by the town. (File photo, 2016)



Town officials are looking into options for local road projects to determine the best method, both economically and physically, to repair roads in the upcoming spring and summer seasons.

At the March 7 public works committee meeting, town engineer Annette Turnquist said her department goes out each year and creates a road rating list to determine the level of work needed. Based on the list, there are some roads that qualify for based rehabilitation (most extensive work), mill and overlay (less extensive), and for roads in fair condition, officials are discussing a one-inch overlay.

A one-inch overlay would provide a smoother finish, Turnquist said, but would require adjusting catch basin tops, so the work would be slightly more expensive than the ultrathin bonded overlay method that was used on some streets last summer.


“The material itself isn’t much more expensive, but there’s a little bit more work that goes into it,” said Turnquist. “It’s still, in my opinion, economical and provides the surface everyone seems to be looking for.”

Back in 2016, the town settled on a process called chip sealing after much debate, in which asphalt chips were poured down, covered and fused over with tar. That cost about $4.70 per square yard. The ultrathin bonded overlay cost about $5 per square yard, and the material alone for the one-inch overlay would cost between $5 and $6 per yard.

Town Councilors received mixed reviews on the chip seal method and the more recent ultrathin bonded overlay method. When the chip seal was first implemented, residents complained of loose stones and potential danger to children playing.

More recently, Town Councilor Mike Riccio (R) said the road he lives on was chip sealed and the road “is in perfect condition,” and said neighbors agreed.

“I think the issue of chip seal is that it’s a method used in a lot of rural towns in New England—not in high-density, suburban towns, so it was quite unique to Southington,” said Town Councilor and public works committee chair John Barry (D). “In Southington we have neighborhoods with short driveways on half-acre lots, whereas in rural towns they have longer driveways and one or two acre lots. The impact to residents was minimal in those towns and now we’re putting it in these dense, populated neighborhoods.”

Public works director Keith Hayden said the chip seal was determined at the time to be a good value, and a process that did do what it should.

“The purpose of the chip seal is to seal and preserve—not to build thickness or strength,” he said at the March 7 meeting. “I’m not advocating for chip seal, but as an engineer when I walk those roads, the chip seal is doing what it was intended to do.”

He said the chip seal self-adheres in the summer under heat, but does spread apart during the winter, although the traffic kneads it back together.

“The value we got out of that for those roads we treated is going to be there,” said Hayden. “It’s going to last.”

Councilor and public works committee member Dawn Miceli (D) said part of the problem with both the chip seal and the ultrathin bonded overlay is the weather.

“We live in New England and it all depends on the weather that day, or week, or month, for everything to seal and adhere,” she said.

According to Hayden, based rehabilitation roads will have a life expectancy of about 25 years. Mill and overlay roads will last about 20, and the one-inch overlay roads would last about 12 years.

Town Councilors would need to vote and approve the new process before construction begins.

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